Saturday, December 15, 2007

People Who Need People

About ten years ago I was watching Sunday Morning on CBS and Bill Geist did a piece about a group of people in New York who take a singing workshop for 4 weeks and then they perform at a cabaret. It was a Geist piece, so he studied and performed with the rest of the class and it was very funny. One of the people in the class was a woman named Laura Slutsky. “Slutsky” as we all call her is an amazing talent. “With a name like Slutsky” she says putting on a clown nose and jester’s hat, “what did you expect me to do.”

We met Slutsky at some black tie reception at the Corcoran Gallery. She had either been on the Charlie Rose Show or she was there to meet Charlie for a blind date—it’s such a long time ago who can remember –but she was with our friends Pat and Marianne Oliphant and so we all connected. Laura was clearly not from Washington. When people from Washington go to an event they dress in high boring. There is rarely any color in the room or the clothing. To say people are staid in their dress is like saying snow is sometimes cold. I mean you could get arrested for wearing white. And there was Slutsky with her flaming red hair and a stunning bright blue frock. (Frock is another one of those great words that people never use anymore). She was breathtaking and I knew she was meant to be our friend, so we insisted she join us for dinner and then forever. But it didn’t happen that way and after about five years, we lost touch. Until I saw her in Geist’s piece about “The Singing Experience”.

At first I didn’t see her but I heard a voice that sounded incredibly familiar and then when I looked up there she was—our Slutsky on TV. She sang and danced and told a short story about her life and how events led her to the class. She had been having a hard time in her business –she produces (identifies, interviews, and edits) commercials with real people. As she says “I go into someone’s home, I look in their closets, I clean their toilets, I walk their pets and then I ask them about dentures.” And she needed something about which she could be proud and would give her the confidence to feel good about her life and herself. She had always been an entertainer without a stage and with this class she found a platform.

After we reconnected, she invited us to one of her performances and we went, not knowing what to expect. The audience was almost entirely made up of people who knew one of the ten or so performers. It was a safe place for the aspiring singers. Linda, who started the business, is truly a talent. Not only as a performer but as a mentor and guide. She not only gives people who may or may not have any talent, a venue to stand up in public and do something that they always wanted to do, but never had the courage. One of the loveliest things that happens during the evening, is that each performer does a fantasy introduction of the performer who follows. So before people appear they have already been introduced as world wide entertaining success.

Anyway, we were very proud of Slutsky, who is truly talented, and we were amazed at the family that Linda had built with this class. Last night I was sitting with two women who had taken the class and who were, on or off the stage, very much a part of this musical family. Sometimes, you may have noticed, I am somewhat cynical about life –or, if you prefer-- old glass half full. But not last night. Here were ten people who had a variety of jobs, (an accountant, a legal secretary, a priest, a model, a professor) who really wanted to sing. Some of them expressed hopes that they could make it a career (not many were that talented, although one woman had boobs big enough to take your mind off the fact that her voice was more than lacking) but that wasn’t the point. They all swallowed their vulnerabilities and stood up in front of strangers and sang from their hearts – without worrying if they were good or bad. And more importantly without caring about being judged.

There was no bull-ticky on that stage. There were no lies about reality or opportunity. Here were people who aspired to be recognized at something they loved to do and so they just stood up and did it. As a person who has tried to inspire young people by giving them the confidence to be who they want to be, it was absolutely inspirational. There was an honesty in those performances that I wish existed in politics.

When I was fifteen I had a very bad bronchitis and had to be out of school for weeks. It was a time when we didn’t have television in our rooms and I had to stay in bed, so what was there to do. I read a magazine that I think was called “Your Hit Parade.” It gave you the words to the 10 most popular songs of the week. My voice was always mediocre, but since I wasn’t going to sing to anyone, I memorized all the words to a number of songs and sang my heart out – in bed. Anyway, I learned the words to my favorite -- “Secret Love”, (sung by Doris Day) -- which I have belted on the top the top of my lungs. Slutsky asked me if I would want to do it for “The Singing Experience”. I declined because I didn’t do it to sing, I did it for my friends for laughs—I did many things for laughs—and still do. And over the years I have continued to sing the song badly but with great assurance. Still, it gives me joy because it makes people laugh. Last night when I watched the performances I was not envious of their performance, but of the joy it gave them to be on that stage. There was such love and passion for the music and delivering it. It made me wish there was that kind of love and passion in what our politicians do. We’re just sayin...Iris


Anonymous said...

"although one woman had boobs big enough to take your mind off the fact that her voice was more than lacking"

Perhaps that's why she need to sing and perform?

I had a work colleague, years ago, whose chest was extremely overwhelming to the rest of her presence.

Years later, after I left that employment, I met her again on a visit to the office. She was just as friendly, but looked different. When I sat down in her work cubical away from other, we got caught up with chat. She then told me she had a breast reduction. From puberty on, she told me, the only thing people looked at where her 'boobs.' Not her talent, not her skills, not her personality - her boobs.

So she underwent the knife to have them reduced so they were less - more proportional to her frame.

She told me that it gave her so much joy to have people look her in the eye.

So perhaps singing off key is a way for this performer to get you to look up, not down.

I'm just thinkin'.

The Westminster Philosopher. Grin.

ps - once met two sisters named Slutsky. They lived together late into adulthood. I got the feeling that it is a name that sometimes can be hard to overcome.

Anonymous said...

I once had a friend who had such large boobs that she said she would give anything to go thru life as most women do, just to see what shoes she was wearing.

Hey, Remember the Mark Eden bust developer? I think they were advertised in the Hit Parade Magazine...

Anonymous said...

It takes so much courage to stand up in front of people & perform. LovedDoris Day. Remember, Ca Se Ra Sera: M